How to Love Your Independent Artist, Pt 2

Following up on last week’s post, How to Love Your Independent Artist, Pt. 1, here is Part 2.  For some reason, I’m a bit nervous to hit “Publish” on this.  Not sure why…maybe I’m afraid it’s going to sound self-centered or whiny or self-serving.  Please know it’s not intended to be anything more than vulnerable, on behalf of my brothers & sisters making art.  So here goes.

Josh Garrels

4.  We don’t all have the same goals.

I think people often believe all artists are hoping for the same things: notoriety, money, awards, platinum albums, or even just to be picked up by a label.  We are all either on our way or not on our way due to unfortunate circumstances.

If we weren’t after those things, then what could possibly be the point?

The reality is that the majority of professional artists do want all of those things.  But there are many of us who honestly don’t.

The longer we stay in or around the business, the more we’re aware that all good things come at some cost.  Those costs are too high for some of us.  Loss of creative control, financial obligation to numerous entities, inability to maintain personal interactions with listeners, struggle for stability in relationships, etc. are very real considerations.  We would really like to be financially compensated for our work, but we’re often torn over the rest.

People have asked how it feels for me to have another artist record a song I write, whether it bothers me when the artist is credited with writing the song.  And my answer is honestly that it feels great & I don’t care if they are mistakenly credited.  It takes nothing from me.  Because…I get to do the writing, which is what I love.  And hearing the song used is what I desire and is the best reward.  I get to be a part of that without the stress or pressure of being a label artist out on the road half the year.  Pure gift!

People joke about musicians or actors who were only on the “mainstage” for a few minutes.  We call them “one-hit wonders,” or we ask, “What ever happened to that guy?”  A Google search might show they’ve been quite active in their field on Broadway or in small music venues.  Their best work may have taken place beyond the limited scope of the public eye, the best song may be track 13 and only the diehard fans ever heard it. We miss some things when we only choose blockbuster films and radio hits for sure.

What I’m suggesting is that we might care for artists by helping them to discover and fulfill THEIR unique purposes, be thrilled when they release solid work regardless of its ranking on iTunes…and refrain from the kindly-intended but unclear “I hope you make it!”

Remember, we mainly make art because we don’t know how not to.

Shelly Moore

5.  We feel “different” and long for creative community; we feel “normal” and just want plain old community, too.

 

Especially for artists living outside the big centers of activity, it gets a little lonely.  Before my life became the crazy epicenter of travel and work and kids that it is now, I was often quite lonely, especially for people who were “like” me.  We tend to feel a little odd (and yes, we can be too introspective).  Our external lives and work can look so unusual that we often assume our inner worlds are quite unusual, too.  Sometimes they are.  Often we (artists, teachers, doctors, gas station attendants, office admins, pastors…) have more in common than we expect.

 

David Lutes

6.  For artists who love God with their whole being, the whole being can be written into song.

 

This may be the trickiest subject, and entire books have been written on what it means to be Christian and be an artist.  I personally recommend Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and Charlie Peacock’s At the Crossroads, for starters.  But I’ll keep it simple here.

Christian audiences, particularly listeners over college age, love music that uses familiar Christian language and is directed toward God and is suitable for corporate singing.  Many are fed by these songs, and the Church is edified by the artists who create this type of worship music.  During the hectic moments of the day, many turn to these songs to be quickly re-directed and saturated in the gospel and scripture.  This is good.

It’s just that this is not the music all of us are called to write.  And writing about the rest of life is – in my humble opinion – equally good and valuable.  Just as the Bible is not only the book of Psalms, but also contains real stories and parables and metaphor and teaching of all kinds, and is spoken in varied voices…we long be free as artists to illustrate or reflect the whole of life, because the whole of life belongs to the Father.  And our “small stories”…aren’t they merely reflections of the “Great Story”?

Birth and love and fracture and redemption…the story is told in countless experiences and endless melodies and lyrical lines.

Many artists of faith do not have a home on Christian radio, do not get invited to play for faith-based groups, and in general do not feel supported by the Church, because they do not write, or maybe lead, “praise & worship” music.

I think that’s a mistake.

So, I guess I’m saying…

If you ask an artist at the merch table if she has any “worship CDs,” she may say, “Yes! All of them.  Take your pick!”  And you may later be surprised to hear her singing about her child or her neighbor or her husband. :)

Nicole Witt

8.  We are grateful.

 

So sincerely grateful.  For every single email telling about how this song affected you.  For every smiling face in the coffee house or listening room.  For every download.  For every kind word after a shaky performance.  For people interacting on blogs and Facebook.  For the invitation to come and sing.  For you sharing the music with your brother, who shares it with his boss, who shares it with his niece…

We feel unworthy and so very lucky to get to write & sing, to do what we love.

Grateful that you found us in this wide world of options.

Grateful that you stayed.

***************************************************

Artists, what would you add to my thoughts?  

Supportive listener-friends, does some of this resonate with you, as well?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Responses

  1. Joelle

    Beautiful, Christa. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You and your music are a grace and a blessing. A gift. Thank you.

  2. Mary

    Christa,
    Found you via Ann Voskamp and am so glad I did…
    Your vulnerability brought understanding tears…
    I am an artist and teacher, always looking for the community and searching for new avenues to copy “THE ARTIST”
    Will definitely check out your music!
    Blessings on the journey!

    • Community, so important and, I think, more at hand than we sometimes realize. Bravo to you for making AND teaching!

  3. Mary

    Christa,

    I listened to the tunes and have to say…WOW!
    You use so many different styles to spread the gift…Pulling out and using all the colors from your crayon box…Beautiful!

  4. Christa, you’ve hit the nail on the head, and not just for music arts, but for all artistic disciplines. Truly, the key is what are you making your art for? If its all to and for the glory of God, then as an artist, it doesn’t matter if it has the label “worship” on it. If our whole life is to be worship unto the Lord, then every song we write, every photo we take, every dance we move to, every meal we cook is worship. And there, in that place, should be the home of every believer, artist or otherwise.

    • Amen and Amen, Rachel. All of us doing what we do to reflect & add beauty. Yes.

  5. Doug McFarland

    Well, if I keep reading your blog, I guess you’ll keep answering questions I have as a Christian and a songwriter. Nice job and very deft sentiments. Create, create, create!

  6. Christa, you’ve given words to the thoughts and experiences of my own journey as a watercolor artist. How enlightening to see such common ground among the different creative expressions – thank you for sharing.

    • I love that, too, Susan…seeing the overlap and commonality between art forms. I learn so much from my visual artist friends. :)

  7. Susan Obaza

    I’m glad to see visual artists’ comments as well. For me the art journey into music and the visual arts started with a fairly desperate prayer for something I could call my own. The thing I had to realize over time was, God really did answer that prayer in a truthful way. In the journey, which was surprising, amazing, frustrating, downright painful, He truly gave me something I could call my own, and that we shared-a personal language of love. I can use it to make money, to worship, to share and love people, but ultimately, it is a revelation of self through His creative power that we share exclusively.

  8. amy

    thanks for sharing, christa. it really comes as no surprise what you shared. i am so grateful for artist like you that share the stories and the good and hard realities in their work. i probably gravitate to such artist as you much more than the mainstream…but i am pleasantly surprised to find God’s Truth and goodness beautiful expressed in many different circles of art and expression, not just where i typically gravitate. thankful to “know” you and your work.

  9. Frances

    You were the one who brought to life a picture of what a songwriter could look like for Elle… You have been that model for her from the beginning… As her parents, we have stepped out in faith with her, realizing, that her gifts couldn’t be put in a box and her expressions of life and her stories to be told in song are a glory to God… They are beautiful stories, some are heart wrenching experiences and others make us smile because we understand… They make their way to a page and she strums them on her guitar… It doesn’t matter if they ever make it on a stage or on the radio. Our home is filled with people and music and joy and laughter and knowing tears and every imaginable instrument… We love it! Thank you for nurturing that in her and being a life-giver to her and so many others…

    Blessings to you and your sweet family!

  10. Joy

    Hi, Mrs. Wells! I am so inspired by your music, I can’t even tell you how much! I keep praying for the day when I’ll be making my own music and people will ask who my musical inspiration(s) are, and I will definitely drop your name! I really hope you see this because I am terribly depressed; I love music and songwriting with all of my heart and I dream of being the indie kind of singer-songwriter; however, I’ve been struggling just to produce ONE song! :( I watch as my aunt and kids younger than me are able to just exhale and they’ve already got 10 songs created! I am struggling to find the melody, the right words. Lately, all I have been producing is just little poems. I feel so dry inside, like a desert, while everyone else is just so fruitful and creative. I try not to get so upset when watching talent shows (or maybe I should stop watching them all together) because I get so…should I say it? Jealous. I get so jealous of all those fruitful people :/ So, anyway, I was wondering if you’ve ever been in this situation and what to do in it. Does this mean that I’m not good enough or creative enough? :(

    With admiration and devotion,

    Joy <3

    • Joy! How much I relate to what you’re saying. It’s so painful to have a longing in your soul that seems unfulfilled. I want to respond more fully to this than I am able to do in this moment (must pack!) – perhaps I will write a li’l blog post about this, because I am SURE there are many who share this struggle. For now, let me just encourage you to keep putting down and shaping WHATEVER you DO have. If it’s a song of just four simple lines that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, write and sing that. If you have one lovely line of lyric, write it down and hold onto it. There are several possible reasons you feel stuck and dry, and we can talk about that more. But for now, gratefully accept those small little tastes of beauty without trying to force them to be something “grander” or “more complete.” Let them be as they are, for now. And don’t watch talent shows. :) Not helping. Read books, participate in great conversations, and write what comes. Also…play other people’s music. I spent years and years playing and singing other people’s music at the piano before I began really composing my own. There is no shame at all in that…it’s great training!

      Love and admiration for YOU and your transparency,
      christa

      • Joy

        Thank You sooo much, Mrs. Wells! I know you are busy, but I just wanted to express my gratitude! You have a beautiful spirit. I will CERTAINLY take your advice! <3

        Love,
        Joy

  11. i’ve never heard your music (first time here from emily’s blog~chatting at the sky), but i love your words here.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I came here today from Chatting at the Sky. I’ve been so blessed by your words!

  13. […] Words on the web: Artists and Influencers by Emily Freeman and the one she linked to: How to Love your Independent Artist by Christa […]

Leave a comment